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Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

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Alice in Wonderland | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


On a May afternoon, seven-year-old Alice is dozing on a sunny riverbank. Suddenly, a big white rabbit carrying a pocket watch rushes by. Alice impetuously follows him down a rabbit hole that turns into a long tunnel. When she finally lands, she is in a dark hallway, and the White Rabbit is nowhere to be seen.

Alice's first challenge in Wonderland is figuring out what size to be. The same sense of adventure that led her down the rabbit hole causes her to eat and drink several mysterious substances that change her size from tiny to huge and back again. At nine feet tall, she cries a pool of tears; at three inches tall, she's forced to swim through the pool with a crowd of talking animals—including a dodo. She grows so big that she fills the White Rabbit's house; she shrinks so fast that her chin hits her foot. Finally, she meets a caterpillar sitting on a mushroom who tells her that she can control her size depending on which side of the mushroom she eats.

Alice begins to explore Wonderland, hoping to reach a garden she spied through a door in the tunnel. On her way, she meets an increasingly strange cast of characters, beginning with the Duchess, who hands over a screaming baby. A few minutes later, the baby turns into a pig and walks away. Next comes the Cheshire Cat, who can appear and vanish at will. "We're all mad here," the Cheshire Cat tells Alice.

The next characters Alice meets—the Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse—certainly fit that category. When Alice joins their tea party, they treat her so rudely that she leaves. Alice finds a way into the garden, but it turns out to be more bizarre than beautiful, with gardeners painting a white rosebush red. The garden belong to the King and Queen of Hearts, animated playing cards who have just arrived for a croquet game along with the rest of the deck of cards.

Alice joins the game, which is difficult to play because flamingos are used as mallets and hedgehogs as croquet balls. Even more disruptive is the Queen of Hearts, who keeps demanding that one or another character be beheaded. Finally, the only players left are the King and the Queen of Hearts, Alice, and the Duchess.

The Queen orders the Gryphon to introduce Alice to the Mock Turtle, a morose creature who recounts a long story about his school days. The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle teach Alice an intricate dance called the Lobster Quadrille. Alice, in turn, tries to recite some poems, but—as always happens in Wonderland—she keeps getting the words wrong. She is describing her adventures to the Gryphon and Mock Turtle when a voice calls from the distance, "The trial is starting!"

Alice goes back to the croquet ground, where a trial has been set up. The Knave of Hearts is charged with stealing the Queen's tarts. Alice watches as the jurors write down their own names to keep from forgetting them. The King of Hearts, as presiding judge, tells the witnesses not to be nervous "or I'll have you executed on the spot."

Just before she is called as a witness, Alice realizes she's growing again. Startled, she knocks over the jury box, and all the jurors topple out. When Alice has righted them, her questioning begins. None of the proceedings make any sense, and Alice points this out. After all, she's now so tall that she's not afraid of anyone in the court. When the Queen orders that the Knave be sentenced before a verdict is given, Alice says loudly, "Stuff and nonsense!" The Queen calls for her execution, and Alice exclaims, "You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

The entire pack rises into the air and flies down on her. Screaming, Alice tries to beat them off—and wakes to find that she's lying on the riverbank and that her big sister is brushing some leaves off her face. She tells her sister about her odd dream. Her sister sends Alice in to have her tea, but the older girl lingers on the bank, dreaming about Alice's adventures.

Alice in Wonderland Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Alice chases the White Rabbit down a tunnel.

Rising Action

2 Alice keeps changing size and meets some talking animals.

3 Alice attends Hatter's tea party.

4 Alice meets grumpy Queen of Hearts, who orders executions.

5 Alice plays croquet and learns Lobster Quadrille.

6 Alice called as witness at trial of Knave of Hearts.


7 Queen's court rises up against Alice.

Falling Action

8 Alice realizes cards are actually leaves.


9 Alice wakes from her dream.

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